Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld
Welcome to Queensland's gateway to gardening - a collection of news, information, resources and ideas of interest to gardeners, especially residents of Queensland, Australia.
Get Results Gardening 15-10-2021
TO PLANT OR NOT TO PLANT?: Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)
LOCAL NEWS: Purple Appreciation
BASICS: Do Plants Need Silicon?
THIS WEEKEND: Pre-Summer Pruning
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Garden Events 2022
Organising a garden show, open garden or similar event in Qld in 2022? Basic text listings (which do include a website link) are free. Featured listings are also available for a modest fee. Go to the Queensland Gardening Events Diary for more information.
The Garden Scene
More news about plants and gardens in Queensland, plus other useful and interesting horticultural news from around the world. Many of these items are edited versions of news that was previously included in Get Results Gardening.
A decision has been made on the fate of four Himalayan ash (Fraxinus griffithii) trees in the centre of Boonah. As non-native species with weedy qualities, they were slated for removal as part of the town's ongoing revitalisation project, but community concern put plans on hold while Scenic Rim Regional Council reviewed the issue. Subsequently, Council announced it will retain three of the trees, necessitating some adjustments to the original landscape design. It will also install a trap which will help prevent the trees' many winged seeds (and other trash) reaching the creeks, but at a cost of $100,000 plus ongoing maintenance. Sources: Council to review trees in Boonah town centre anf Council makes decision on Boonah High Street trees, 21 (September, 2020)
Brisbane Warms to Fire Pits
Following the winter trial and strong community response, Brisbane City Council has decided that its residents may continue to use fire pits and braziers. However, they must not present a fire or smoke hazard and must not be used when there are fire bans in place. You can get more information about what's allowed, including design, placement and fuels, at the Council website here: Brazier and fire pit heating trial. Earlier in 2020 many Brisbane residents were surprised to learn that fire pits had not actually been permitted previously. It would be worth checking the website before you light up again next winter, as the law is yet to be formally amended. Residents in other council jurisdictions should check with their own local authority. (September, 2020)
A Growing Library
The Noosa Library Service, in conjunction with Permaculture Noosa and the Cooroy Community Permaculture Gardens, is planning to launch a seed library. Users will be encouraged to save seeds from their successful crops and "return" them to the library, building a good supply of seeds that will perform well under local conditions. Workshops for adults and children and instructional videos will also be part of the program. Source: Seed library to help grow community of keen gardeners (August, 2020).
Sleepless in the Suburbs
Landscape lighting can affect the flowering cycle of some plants, but may disrupt the sleep of birds, too. Reserachers at La Trobe University and University of Melbourne looked at various aspects of sleep such as duration, fragmentation and REM in two bird species and found exposure to light at intensities comparable to street lighting had negative impacts. In humans, it's been shown that reducing the amount of blue-wavelengths can reduce the effects of electronic screens on sleep. Similarly, it was found that magpies did suffer more with blue-rich white light than with amber light. However, white and amber light were equally bad for the domestic pigeons tested, showing that species vary in their reaction and simply changing the light colour is probably not a general solution. Although wild birds can potentially avoid brightly-lit areas, the researchers suggest you only use outdoor lighting when and where it's really needed, eliminating purely decorative lighting and using sensor lighting for safety and security. They also recommend street and park lights be directed downwards and shielded as much as possible. Source: Artificial light keeps birds up at night (July, 2020).
A Growing Demand
In the UK, the pandemic has hit home how important having a garden can be. British property portal Rightmove reports that in June, searches by prospective buyers nominating gardens as an essential feature greatly increased. A survey also showed that this is the biggest change in priorities for for buyers after going through lockdown. Especially valuable are south-facing gardens and terraces, to maximise access to natural light and warmth in these northern hemisphere properties. Source: £22,000 premium for homes with south-facing gardens (July, 2020)
New Weapon in Woody Weed War
A more efficient way killing of weed trees has been developed by the University of Queenlsand in association with Gatton-based BioHerbicides Australia. A dry from of glyphosate is packaged inside a capsule which is inserted into the trunk with a specially designed applicator called the Injecta. Testing of the technology for the control of large Chinese elms growing in native vegetation along Franklin Vale Creek, near Grandchester, shows several advantages over the old methods. In the past, herbicide would typically be applied via cuts or holes in the trunks or over the stump. The capsule method uses less chemical with less risk of environmental contamination and is faster and safer for the operator. Less personal protective equipment is required and no chainsaws, axes or heavy backpack sprayers are involved. Source: Giant weeds slain by UQ innovation (July, 2020)
More Proof of Plastic Uptake by Plants
Uptake of Nanoplastic particles (which are less than 100 nanometres in size) has been observed in a plant. Now there's a report of larger microplastic particles being absorbed by plants. In this case, the particles squeezed between root cells or entered through natural cracks formed where new roots emerge. They were then transported upwards with normal water movement. Food crops particularly at risk of plastic contamination would be those growing with wastewater or sewage sludges. Source: Crop Plants Are Taking Up Microplastics (July 2020)
Plastic Pollution in Plants
Pollution of aquatic environments is getting a lot of attention, but now there's evidence of a terrestrial plant absorbing nanoplastics under 200nm in size. Under laboratory conditions, Arabidopsis thaliana was shown to accumulate two types of particle with similar properties to weathered and degraded plastic found in the environment. Both types inhibited growth, which has big implications for both natural and agricultural systems. Of the two plastics tested, the one with a positively charged surface had the biggest effect on the plants, although it was mainly confined to the root tips. The negatively-charged plastic was, on the other hand, seen to move more within the plants. Source: Research in Land Plants Shows Nanoplastics Accumulating in Tissues (June 2020)
Fire Ant Regulations Updated
Fire ants haven't been in the news much lately, but the threat hasn't gone away. The Queensland Government have recently amended biosecurity regulations, which includes changing movement controls from a 3-zone to a 2-zone system. Check the updated rules at the Qld Govt Fire Ants Portal. You'll also find more information about fire ants, how they spread and how to recognise them. (June 2020)
Tree-killers strike Toogoom
In more pest news, Fraser Coast Regional Council have confirmed that the death of several mature trees along the Toogoom foreshore was caused by deliberate poisoning. This follows another poisoning case at Point Vernon four months ago. Council will trim limbs for public safety, but intend leaving as much of the dead trees' structure as possible to provide wildlife habitat. Source: Toogoom tree vandalism ‘disappointing and destructive’ (June 2020)
Made for the Shade
Noosa Botanic Garden's new shade garden has been officially opened, replacing an old shade house that was closed to the public several years ago for safety reasons. The new structure incorporates shade sails that overlap in places to produce a variety of light and shade levels, enabling a range of different shade-loving species to be cultivated beneath. The new garden has been a collaborative effort, with Noosa Council staff and garden volunteers working on the landscaping and the project being jointly funded by Council and Seqwater.It's hoped that the new shade garden will further encourage visitors to the Gardens, which is already estimated at 70,000 per year. Source: New shade garden opens at Noosa Botanic Gardens (February 2020).
Toowoomba Honours Horticultural Heritage
As part of ongoing upgrades to Queens Park, an interpretive shelter is slated to commence construction shortly. Visitors will be able to view excavated footings of the old conservatory which once stood adjacent to the site. The "hot house" was a feature of the park from 1909 until its removal in the late 1950s. The site was excavated by archaeology team from the University of Southern Queensland in 2015. You can view an ABC report on the dig and see historical photographs here: Archaeologists uncover secrets of long-lost Toowoomba conservatory. The design of the new shelter has been inspired by the shape of the former greenhouse, paying homage to a structure which would have made a significant contribution to Toowoomba's identity as a "garden city". Source: Construction to begin on Queens Park Interpretive Shelter (February 2020)
Designing the Sunshine Coast
Sunshine Coast Design is a newly-released book developed by Sunshine Coast Council in collaboration with design professionals and the broader community to encourage design that reflects the region's environmental and cultural character. Some of the design principles promoted by the book include consideration of climate, inspiration from nature, shady streets, green corridors, incorporation of landscape and enhancement of views. A hard copy version will be available for purchase but an online version can be viewed for free: Sunshine Coast Design Book. (February 2020)
A Matter of Matter
When soil organic matter is too high, there can be an excess of nutrients and microbial activity that damages plants. Samples from urban gardens near Oregon State University, averaged 13% organic matter, while 3-5% is recommended. One garden visited had 30% organic matter and dying plants. High figures were associated with raised beds, which are typically filled with materials other than the sites' natural soils. The researcher recommends balancing high-carbon materials with nutrient-rich manures and composts, and blending with good soil. Source: Study shows some urban gardens contain too much organic matter (January, 2020)
Biosecurity Comes Calling
Backyard growers on the Sunshine Coast have had over 1,000 banned plants (mostly cacti) seized and destroyed. "Our staff, together with Sunshine Coast Regional Council officers have been on the lookout for people selling illegal plants either online or through local markets," said Biosecurity Queensland Operations Manager Rob Cobon. If you're aware of someone growing or selling illegal plants, you can alert Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. Source: Biosecurity Queensland and Sunshine Coast Council target illegal weeds in backyard nurseries. (January 2020)
Tips for Drips
The "drip tip" has long been recognised as an adaptation by rainforest leaves to efficiently shed water, but a recent study shows how the precise structure of the leaf tip achieve this. The tapered shape reduces capillary resistance and the orientation and curvature of the apex works with gravity to enhance droplet shedding. This results in a higher frequency of drips, each of a lower volume. The drip tiles of Asian palaces and the gargoyles of European cathedrals employed similar principles, helping to move water quickly off the structures and reducing the risk of leakage, rot and corrosion in an age before drainage pipes. Full report: Apex structures enhance water drainage on leaves (January 2020)
Playtime in Toowoomba
Stage 5 of Toowoomba's Queens Park Master Plan has been completed. The latest developments include upgraded landscaping and playgrounds along Margaret Street, plus improved pathways and lighting. Besides enhancing the park for residents and visitors, Toowoomba Regional Council says that over 70 jobs were either created or supported in the process. There are two more stages to be done before the Master Plan is complete. Source: $1.3 million Queens Park upgrade officially opened. (January 2020)
Mixed Messages From Alluring Orchid
Females of most mosquito species need to consume animal blood to produce eggs. What's less well known is that adults of both sexes feed on plant sugars, including floral nectar. Some plants in turn use the mosquitoes as pollinators. One of these is a Northern Hemisphere orchid called Platanthera obtusata, which advertises its nectar by emitting an alluring scent. Scientists investigating this relationship have found that it's a mixture of different odour compounds in exactly the right proportions that does the trick, even though some of the individual ingredients have a repulsive effect in isolation. They also found that one of the repellent chemicals lights up the same parts of the mosquito brain as DEET. Perhaps an orchid-inspired compound could provide an effective (and better-smelling) alternative for personal insect protection in the future. Source: Mosquitoes are drawn to flowers as much as people - and now scientists know why. (January 2020)
A Green Gaze Reduces Stress
A study conducted in a real-world office in Japan asked participants to keep a small plant on their desk. They were also required to gaze at the plant for 3 minutes when feeling fatigue. These little "nature breaks" were beneficial to the workers. The researchers suggest that choosing and caring for the plant may have enhanced the positive results observed. The type of plant chosen was not important and they were not large. They included small succulents, bonsai, kokedama and tiny air plants. Sources: Plants can improve your work life, Potential of a Small Indoor Plant on the Desk for Reducing Office Workers' Stress. (January 2020)
National Parks' Hidden Productivity
An interdisciplinary team of Griffith University researchers have estimated that the improved mental health of visitors to national parks is worth about $8.7 trillion ($US6 trillion) per year worldwide. The value of Australia’s national parks to the nation is estimated at around $145 billion a year, meaning the cost of poor mental health to Australia could be 7.5% higher without national parks and other protected areas. Source: Research estimates value of impact national parks have on mental health. Full report: Economic value of protected areas via visitor mental health, Nature Communications. (November, 2019)
Tis the season for awards, including the Landscape Queensland Construction Excellence Awards organised by the Landscape Queensland Industries Association. You can view images of the winning and highly commended entries at the association's website. See what's on trend for some of the state's high-end residential, commercial and public outdoor spaces. The Australian Urban Design Awards are a collaboration of several urban planning and architecture bodies and those 2019 results have also been announced. Of the Queensland entries, the transformation of the Howard Smith Wharves under the Story Bridge in Brisbane won an award for a city or regional scale built project. The University of the Sunshine Coast received a commendation in the local and neighbourhood scale leadership, advocacy and research category for their Serious Urban Play interactive teaching aid.
A new citizen science project led by the Australian National University is making it possible for everyone to contribute to butterfly research and conservation. The Butterflies Australia Project allows you to submit butterfly sightings, building a database that will help scientists track where butterfly species are, distribution changes over time and places they may be at risk. Get started by downloading their free phone app (iOS and Android). There will be a digital field guide available to help you identify your sightings. Find more information at butterflies.org.au and on their Facebook page, facebook.com/ausbutterflies. Also, look out for workshops held around the country until May 2020. (November 2019)
Antibiotics and Soil
Antibiotics are used extensively in animal production and some wind up in the manure. Research from America comparing fields fertilised with manure from treated and untreated dairy cattle has indeed shown multiple effects. Changes in soil microbiology and the use of carbon and nitrogen by plants was demonstrated. Less carbon was stored in the soil. For some time, the potential for development of resistance has been a major concern with respect to the overuse of antibiotics, but these results point to a range of possible impacts on agriculture and environment as well. Source: New research finds multiple effects on soil from exposure to manure from cows administered antibiotics (October 2019)
Fraser Coast Champs
Fraser Coast Regional Council’s School Water and Waste Wise Garden Competition has awarded two joint Grand Champions this year - Kawungan State School and Urangan High School. Organised with the participation of Wide Bay Water and Waste Services, a major objective of the competition is to encourage water-wise gardening and recycling. Besides directing food scraps to chickens and worms instead of landfill, students have repurposed building materials for garden projects and incorporated a range of water-saving plants and techniques into their garden designs. Full results: Fraser Coast school garden competition winners announced (October 2019)
Logan's Angle on Myrtle Recovery
The angle-stemmed myrtle (Gossia gonoclada) is one of Queensland's rarest plants. It has only been found growing naturally in Brisbane and Logan, the latter being home to 33 of 73 known individuals. Logan City Council has been active in conservation of this endangered species. Habitats - near the Albert and Logan Rivers - have been mapped and propagation undertaken. To date, 160 new Gossia gonoclada saplings have been planted along these waterways. The council's strategy for the next ten years is outlined in the recently announced City of Logan Gossia gonoclada Recovery Plan 2019-2029. This includes developing cost-effective activities, facilitating community engagement in conservation projects and working with other programs in the region. (September 2019)
Some older news items of continuing interest have been moved to appropriate subject pages. Check the Guide to Pages or use the search function at the top of the page. Older news about the benefits to physical or mental health and society will be collected in a new page: Effect of gardens & gardening on human health. Items related to property value are at Landscaping & property values